Liberty, if it means anything…

The purpose of last night’s Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, indeed, the purpose of Index on Censorship, is to highlight the stories of people fighting for free expression around the world, and to ensure that free expression is at the heart of the discourse on rights and liberties.

In carrying out that task this year, we’ve been lucky to collaborate with the Guardian‘s Liberty Central site.

Liberty Central’s Natalie Hanman interviewed award nominee Harrison Nkomo, who explained the difficulty of uphold the rights to a free press, and proper legal processes. You can watch the interview here.

Bindman’s Law and Campaigning award winner Malik Imtiaz Sarwar wrote an article for the site, detailing his struggle in Malaysia, including the defence of Raja Petra Kamarudin of Malaysia Today.

And the top story today is Sir David Hare’s keynote speech from the event, where he admits to some initial scepticism about Index on Censorship (thankfully he then admits he was wrong!).

David Hare also raises his own misgivings on what we might call ‘free-speech abolutism’, saying: ‘I had misgivings about freedom of speech being made the sole criterion of a free society. I still do.’

It’s an interesting point. Free expression may not be the sole criterion of a free, and healthy society, but I think discussion is. Societies flounder and fail when discussion is shut down. As award winner Ma Jian put it in his speech last night, the end result of censorship (and perhaps the desired result of censorship) is stultification and stupefaction of individuals and society.

Liberty Central is a good embodiment of why free expression is important: we need free expression so we have the space to discuss all other rights, liberties and responsibilties — as happens on Liberty Central.